View Full Version : Eye Contact, NVLD, & ADHD


APSJ
04-30-09, 05:07 PM
This could just as easily go in the social issues or anxiety forums, but I thought I'd post it here since this forum seems slow.

I have a lot of trouble with eye contact. I think its a combination of the NVLD, the ADHD, and the fact that for a long time my social anxiety was such that I would always look down and never make eye contact,.

First, it doesn't come naturally to me, and I have a lot of trouble figuring out when and for how long its appropriate. I try and watch what other people do, and have gotten somewhat better at this, but its hard to do without being obvious.

Its important to make eye contact when speaking with someone to show that you are interested and paying attention.

Staring at someone is creepy and should be avoided.

So...I know I should make eye contact, but not sustain it for too long. Not sustaining it isn't a problem, as I'm naturally inclined to keep looking around while someone is talking...out the window, at degrees on an office wall, at book titles on a book shelf, other people walking by. But, how often should I look away, and for how long? If I look at things like those I described above, doesn't that communicate disinterest?

How about on the street? Where I grew up, a rural area, it would be rude not to both make eye contact and say hello to someone you passed on the street, even if you didn't know them.

Where I live now, a big city, trying to make eye contact and say hello to everyone you pass will likely result in your being viewed as insane. BUT, its rude to stare straight ahead and walk past someone that you know...which brings me to my second problem.

Even when I know whats appropriate, I can't always act on it. This, I think, is more where my NVLD(or 'visual memory impairment') comes in.

If I'm just a few feet away from someone, it takes me about a second to recognize them, assuming I've seen them quite a few times before.(unless they're dressed significantly differently or changed their hair, in which case it could be several minutes). It doesn't seem like a lot, but I've noticed that most people seem to recognize each other instantly. When someone says hello to me, unless I know them extremely well, I virtually never respond with their name, because I'm usually not yet fully certain who they are.

At my school, people who I vaguely recall having seen before, and some who I don't recall ever seeing before, will occassionally say hello to me and call me by name.

If I'm more than a few feet away from someone, it can take me several seconds, sometimes more, to figure out if I recognize them, depending on how far away they are and how familiar I am with their appearance. A lot of people look alike to me, and I've started to walk over to people to say hello only to realize that I dont' know them and keep walking on a number of occassions. Other times, I'll err on the side of caution and start to walk past someone, who will turn out to be someone I should have said hello to.

Getting back to eye contact...this means that I have to actually turn and look at people I pass on the street for at least several seconds before I even know whether its appropriate to be doing so. Even so, I often get anxious and look away before I've made a positive determination of whether or not I've met the person. Its really the worst option, as it combines awkwardness with obnoxiousness. If I just looked long enough to figure out if I know someone, I'd be awkward and seem weird, but at least would acknowledge people I knew when I saw them. If I just looked straight ahead and didn't acknowledge anyone, I'd seem obnoxious, but at least not so strange.

Finally, in group conversations, or classes, I usually turn to look at the person speaking, but my mind often wonders and I suddenly find I'm still looking at them after they've stopped talking, and someone else started.

Does anyone else have any of these problems? Does anyone have any tips for overcoming them?

TygerSan
05-01-09, 11:50 AM
I definitely have trouble with eye-contact. If I'm just spacing out and not thinking about things, I can find myself inadvertently staring at someone, thus creeping them out. I also have this problem where, when I'm deep in thought and trying to express something complex to another person, I tend to lose eye contact and end up staring off into space. That said, I really don't appreciate it when someone (aka my mother) reminds me that I'm staring off into space b/c then I lose whatever I was trying to say (and it's usually something quite important to me).

As for facial recognition, I think I'm probably somewhat below average, but not significantly so. I seem to recall that you have specific difficulties with visual memory, so not remembering faces sort of makes sense. The way you say you recognise ppl, and the fact that you have more trouble when someone's hairstyle changes all point to poor spatial recognition of faces. There is actually a term for this: prosopagnosia . . . it occurs on a spectrum and, IIRC, is more common amongst ppl on the autism spectrum.

I often think of myself as having "soft signs" of an autism spectrum disorder. . . I'm pretty sure I'm not autistic, but there's definitely a lot of experiences I share with ppl who are. . . maybe it's just the neurotatypicality, as you put it.

APSJ
05-01-09, 12:20 PM
I find myself staring at people when my mind is wandering all the time. Sometimes I'll suddenly realize that I'm staring at someone on the subway and they're glaring back at me.

The facial recognition thing is something I only started to notice after I got my anxiety problems under control enough to actually talk to people in passing. Its been quite a problem. I recently didn't recognize someone who I had worked with for three or four months, about a year ago, because she had gone from having short curly hair to long straight hair. She said hello to me and called me by name, but I just said hello and kept walking, trying to think who it could be, and she looked surprised. I didn't figure it out until about a week later. I actually would have like to ask what she was doing now, and I probably ended up seeming really stuck-up.

hsoJ
05-04-09, 06:40 PM
I tend to look down/around when I'm talking to someone because I tend to get preoccupied watching their mouth more than I listen to the words that are coming out of it... if I do look at them, I end up glaring or staring past them to make it actually look like I'm "paying attention". If that's what you mean.

APSJ
05-04-09, 06:54 PM
I tend to look down/around when I'm talking to someone because I tend to get preoccupied watching their mouth more than I listen to the words that are coming out of it... if I do look at them, I end up glaring or staring past them to make it actually look like I'm "paying attention". If that's what you mean.

I have no idea if I seem like I'm staring or glaring when I try to make appropriate eye contact.....its quite possible....I do find that when I'm making an effort to make eye contact that effort can distract me from listening to what the the person is saying.

hsoJ
05-04-09, 09:15 PM
I have no idea if I seem like I'm staring or glaring when I try to make appropriate eye contact.....its quite possible....I do find that when I'm making an effort to make eye contact that effort can distract me from listening to what the the person is saying.

Yes... much like [when in class] I get so wrapped up in telling myself to pay attention and take good notes that I completely lose place of where the prof is at.

And I apologize for bringing up the staring/glaring note... you're likely to think about that next time, as well as everything else that will try to distract you.

APSJ
05-04-09, 09:27 PM
And I apologize for bringing up the staring/glaring note... you're likely to think about that next time, as well as everything else that will try to distract you.

Don't worry...I already do.:rolleyes:

ericmcbride
10-23-09, 09:58 AM
"This, I think, is more where my NVLD(or 'visual memory impairment') comes in."
Whoa, hold on now...I didn't think that Non-verbal communication was eexactly visual memory impairment...
Is that so??

TygerSan
11-21-09, 12:49 PM
Non-verbal communication difficulties could be caused by a variety of factors. I could see where a visual memory impairment could lead to difficulties in interpretation of non-verbal cues.

Asylum
11-22-09, 06:30 AM
I have trouble making eye contact. Sometimes i don't even feel strong enough to try and just look down. The strange thing is, my whole family avoided eye contact with each other when i was growing up. None of us would be looking at each other when we were talking.
Why is this?? And does this mean my prob is a learnt one, or something to do with one of my many little disorders?